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O'Hara, Charles (1740?-1802) (DNB00)


O'HARA, CHARLES (1740?–1802), general, governor of Gibraltar, born about 1740, illegitimate son of James O'Hara, second lord Tyrawley, was educated at Westminster School, and was appointed to a cornetcy in the 3rd dragoons (now hussars), 23 Dec. 1752. On 14 Jan. 1756 he was appointed lieutenant and captain in the Coldstream guards, of which James O'Hara was colonel. He was aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Granby [see Manners, John, 1721-1770] in Germany, after the battle of Minden, and, with the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel, was quarter-master-general of the troops under Lord Tyrawley in Portugal in the short but sharp campaign of 1762. On 26 July 1766 he was appointed commandant at Goree, Senegal, and lieutenant-colonel-commandant of the African corps, formed at that time of military delinquents pardoned on condition of their accepting life-service in Africa. He held three posts without detriment to his promotion in the Coldstream guards, in which he became captain and lieutenant-colonel in 1769, and vacated them on promotion to brevet colonel in 1779. He served in America, as brigadier-general commanding the brigade of guards, from October 1780; distinguished himself at the passage of the Catawba on 1 Feb. 1781, and received two dangerous wounds at the battle of Guilford Courthouse on 15 March following. He was with the troops under Cornwallis that surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, 19 Oct. 1781 (MacKinnon, ii. 11, 14). Cornwallis wrote of him: 'His zealous services under my command, the pains he took, and the success he met with in reconciling the guards to every kind of hardship, give him a just claim, independent of old friendship, on my very strongest recommendations in his favour' (Cornwallis' Correspondence, i. 183). O'Hara remained a prisoner in America until 9 Feb. 1782, when he was exchanged. He had in the meantime become a major-general. On 18 March 1782 he received the colonelcy of the 22nd foot, and in May following was given command of the reinforcements sent from New York to Jamaica. Subsequently he returned home, and in 1784 Cornwallis expressed regret that 'poor O'Hara is once more driven abroad by his relentless creditors' (ib. i. 155). O'Hara, who was the intimate personal friend of Horace Walpole and Henry Seymour Conway [q. v.], went to Italy, where he became acquainted, with Miss Mary Berry [q. v.], who was staying with the Conways at Home, and to whom he afterwards became engaged. He appears to have been a major-general on the staff at Gibraltar from 1787 to 1790. Horace Walpole speaks of him as at home at the latter date, 'with his face as ruddy and black and his teeth as white as ever (Walpole, Letters, ix. 303), and alludes to his having been 'shamefully treated,' probably in not obtaining the lieutenant-governorship of Gibraltar. O'Hara was transferred in 1791 to the colonelcy of the 74th highlanders, which, being on the Indian establishment, was a more lucrative post than that of the 22nd at home. In 1792 he received the coveted lieutenant-governorship, and in 1793 became a lieutenant-general. Later in the same year he was sent from Gibraltar to Toulon, to replace Lord Mulgrave in the command of the British troops before that place. O'Hara was wounded and made prisoner when the French attacked Fort Mulgrave on 23 Nov. 1793. He was taken to Paris, and kept a prisoner in the Luxembourg during the reign of terror until August 1795, when he was exchanged with General Rochambeau. During his incarceration he told one of his fellow-prisoners, in the course of an argument: 'In England we can say King George is mad; you dare not say here that Robespierre is a tiger' (Alger, p. 227-9).

On his return to England O'Hara was appointed governor of Gibraltar in succession to General Sir Robert Boyd [q. v.] He wished the marriage with Miss Berry to take place without delay, but the lady was reluctant to leave home, and at the end of 1790 the match was broken off. To the end of her life she wrote and spoke of O'Hara as 'the most perfect specimen of a soldier and a courtier of the past age.'

O'Hara became a full general in 1798. At Gibraltar he proved himself a very active and efficient governor at a critical time. His old-fashioned discipline was rigid, but just and fair, while his lavish hospitality and agreeable companionship made him generally popular. In the military novel of 'Cyril Thornton' (p. 101) the author. Captain Thomas Hamilton (1789-1842) [q. v.], gives his youthful recollections of the 'Old Cock of the Rock,' as O'Hara was called, in his Kevenhüller hat and big jackboots, and 'double row of sausage curls that projected on either flank of his toupee;' for although a young man of his years, in all other particulars O'Hara affected the old-fashioned garb of Ligonier and Granby.

After much suffering from complications caused by his old wounds, O'Hara died at Gibraltar on 21 Feb. 1802. Although his circumstances had been straitened in earlier years, he died rich. He left a sum of 70,000l. in trust for two ladies at Gibraltar, by whom he had families, for themselves and their children. His plate, valued at 7,000l., inclusive of a piece worth 1,000l. presented to him by the merchants of Gibraltar, he bequeathed to his black servant.

[Army Lists; Mackinnon's Hist, of Coldstream Guards, vol. ii.; Cornwallis Corresp. vol. i; Horace Walpole's Letters, passim; Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution; Extracts from the Journals of Miss Berry, vols. i. and ii.; London Gazettes, 1793; Toulon Despatches; Nelson Despatches; War Office and Colonial Office Correspondence, Gibraltar; Gent. Mag. 1802, pt. i. p. 278 (will).]

H. M. C.